Tuesday, June 18, 2013

women's issues: equal pay and ending the civil war.

Ladies, we have some issues to discuss triggered by the Miss USA pageant (that I didn't watch). It came to light quickly that Miss Utah had fumbled her Q&A session. There isn't any disputing that, but it got me thinking about some things. First, what is the answer to the equal pay/equal work issue? Second, why did we take such joy in her failure?

It seems anachronistic to talk about why women do not get paid the same as men for the same work, but it is still a relevant discussion. This is an issue that was so abstract to me while I was in school, having never worked more than an internship or two. Now that I am in the "real world", I cannot come up with a good reason for the payment disparity unless I harken back to a history rooted in gender inequality. If I have learned anything from studying history, it is that change often moves at a snail's pace. I am willing to bet that if we polled Americans asking whether women should be paid the same as men for the same work, that the vast majority would answer in the affirmative. So why the lag? Perhaps our stereotypes  have a longer shelf life than our rhetoric... and cast larger shadows than we ever knew. Miss Utah wasn't asked the difficult question of "why?"; rather, she was asked to comment on what the discrepancy says about our society. Every fiber of her being should have been telling her to cry injustice, but she didn't. Social injustices do not self-correct. There isn't some delicate social balance that will restore itself over time. Heavens no. Every movement toward change has had human catalysts creating awareness of an issue and clamoring for change. People have sacrificed life and limb to have their voices heard, and this issue should be no different. I hope it resolves before I ever bring a son or daughter in this world, but I cannot sit back and expect it to happen. I... WE, have to be proactive.

So, if I could ask a pageant question, it might go something like this: "Miss ________, why do you think America reacts so strongly when you or one of the other contestants botches an answer on stage?" I mean, I get it. It is a headline. The answer was bad. We expect a certain poise, polish, and sophistication. Maybe I am about to venture an unpopular opinion, but I suspect many women's criticisms of Miss Utah stem from something deeper (or more shallow, depending on how you look at it). Here is a girl with a seemingly perfect physique, marvelous hair, bronzed skin, legs for days, dazzling white teeth, and we enjoy heartily finding out she's not perfect. We can be disappointed that a thoughtful question did not get the answer it deserves, but I see no sense in personally attacking Miss Utah. In 2013, women do more injustice to each other than any man. We react out of petty jealousy in our dangerous propensity to compare ourselves to one another. I wish more than anything that we would learn to celebrate each other's attributes and forgive our shortcomings. Why waste energy resenting the Victoria's Secret model or the pageant girl? Why waste energy trying to figure out how to  either be her or demean her? If we could focus on being the best version of ourselves, then we wouldn't feel compelled to waste it on bringing others down. I could be entirely alone in my opinion, but it is no coincidence the number of times I notice myself or others bringing another woman down in order to garner a higher self esteem. We certainly love feeling like we are on a pedestal, don't we? We could rise so much higher if we gave a helping hand on the way to the top rather than stepping all over each other. I hear rhetoric about sisterhood and celebrating natural beauty, but I rarely see it translate into action. What if we offered each other support in our failures? What if we were proud of each other's accomplishments? What if we took heart in the idea that we aren't competing with each other? We all bring something unique to the table. There is no better recipe for my empowerment than taking pride in the fact that I am different than the next woman, while respecting the next woman as I would myself.

Now that I've said it, I wonder what it would look like in action...

today's goal.
join me?

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